Caring for Seedlings Indoors

You’ve put the seeds in small dirt cups, watered and given them a home to grow. Now that there are tiny plants, how do you care for those seedlings until it’s time to place them in the ground?

Here in Chez Olmanson, our first batch of seedlings is coming along nicely. Nearly all the seeds have sprouted into tiny plants or are beginning to sprout. We have, therefore, removed the “greenhouse” lids and are letting them out into the air, removing the “pots” that failed to sprout. Now we need to care for our seedlings for the next month or so until they’re ready to be planted in the ground after our last frost date.

Daily Seedling Care:

    1. Spend mornings in sunny window in dining room.
    2. Water every few days or when soil appears dry.
    3. Move to extra table in dining room for evenings.
    4. Wait and watch for 2nd set of leaves to move to larger containers and/or thin down double-planted seedlings.
    5. Plant second round of seedlings.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much water do you give the seedlings?

We pour around a cup of water into this tray every third day, about half on either side of the tray. I tilt the tray to make sure the water gets to all the different plants immediately after. The cup of water seems sufficient for our tray of 31 seedlings because all the water is soaked into the plants and none is pooling at the bottom of the tray.

Allowing the soil to dry out partially will promote root growth, and too much water can cause root rot or damping-off. You do not, however, want to keep the soil dry for extended periods of time. Watering after it starts to get dry on top seems to work best for us. That way we know the plant is using all the water we are giving it, but it’s not wilting.

What temperature do I need to keep the seedlings at?

Seedlings do best in controlled temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Because our house is generally about this and the dining room, even with the heat on in the winter, is definitely in that range, if not lower, it makes for the perfect seedling room with all the natural light it gets.

How much sunlight do my seedlings need?

Seedlings need light, but direct sun can raise the temperature, and root growth stops at temperatures higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. They do, however, need plenty of light. During the day, our seedlings sit in the natural light in our dining room.

If it a particularly gray day, I turn on one overhead fluorescent light so they have plenty of light for the daylight hours. At night, we are generally occupying the kitchen and dining room and have the lights on for us as well as the seedlings. This means they’re getting direct light more than just during the spring daylight hours, which they need.

When can I transplant my seedlings?

When more than one seedling comes up in a container, you can either transplant or pull the extra plant. Choose the larger of the two and pull the weaker one. If you would like to save the second plant, you will need to transplant it to its own container. You may also transplant seedlings if they are planted in small containers that they’ve outgrown before the last frost date for your area.

Try to wait to transplant seedlings until they have two sets of leaves. The second set of leaves is called their “true leaves.” If it’s necessary for you to transplant before then, do so with great care. Get a second container ready for the transplant and fill with moistened soil. Carefully remove the plant from it’s current container, trying not to pull or break the roots, and place it in the new container. Cover roots and bottom portion of stem with soil, press firmly to secure. Keep soil moist as roots start to take hold in their new home.

My plants are getting thin and very tall. What should I do?

Because seedlings are usually grown primarily indoors, they are at risk for becoming too fragile (tall and thin). Exposing your plants to some of the natural elements of nature will help prevent this. I recently placed my seedlings outside for a few hours on a warm, 70-degree day. They were exposed to the wind and other natural elements.

If it’s too warm or not warm enough where you are, you can simulate some natural elements by fanning your plants a few times a day. You could blow on them, I suppose, but a small desk fan on low for a few minutes here and there should suffice and save your breath.

I am by no means an expert when it comes to seedlings and gardening, but I have learned by doing and gardening on my own and as a child with my parents growing up. Plus, my mom is always a phone call away when I have a pressing question I need her advice on.

How do you care for your seedlings?

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  1. Great tips. This is the first year I’ve had success with seedlings. I was just wondering how I was going to keep them alive until it’s time to put them in the ground. :) Thanks! I have created “shelves” in front of the east and west window in our master bedroom. I move them from one side to the other as the sun moves during the day. It seems to be working quite well. They are sturdy and not getting spindly at all. YAY!!
    .-= Jackie´s last blog ..What’s in the Kitchen? Ham. =-.

  2. Doesn’t it make your heart swell when those little seedlings pop up!!!
    .-= Candi @ Family Stamping and FOOD!´s last blog ..Frugal Gardening: Whatcha Plantin’? =-.

  3. I wish I had planted my basil inside this year. The problem is I plant masses of seeds. This year the weather has been awful. The seedlings are still tiny after 5 weeks and the slugs are driving me mead.


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